The overhaul of Woodhaven Boulevard in southeast Queens promises to make buses faster and more reliable while preventing injuries and deaths on one of the most dangerous streets in the city. Naturally, State Senator Joseph Addabbo is mobilizing constituents to oppose the project and keep Woodhaven the way it is.
Addabbo has been agitating against the project most of the year, writing in the Queens Chronicle this April that “[r]ush-hour traffic would suffer significantly and, as someone who sits on that roadway every day during those times, I shudder to think it could get worse.”
In an email to constituents yesterday, Addabbo rattled off the typical litany of horrors you hear any time the city proposes repurposing street space from cars to other modes of travel: intolerable congestion, traffic diverted to other streets, plummeting sales for local business, and, somehow, even more danger for people on foot.
Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard have such a high rate of traffic injuries and fatalities because the current design is geared only toward moving as many cars as possible. On some stretches, the street is wider than 150 feet. As a result, speeding is rampant and people get hurt on a daily basis. From July 2012 to December 2014, eight people were killed in crashes along the proposed BRT route, and 1,432 were injured, according to city stats compiled by Transportation Alternatives.
The Woodhaven BRT design concept calls for pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances. The reduction in general traffic lanes and left turns to make room for dedicated bus lanes, spun as a negative by Addabbo, is expected to yield substantial safety benefits, as fewer drivers weave dangerously across lanes and try to shoot through gaps in oncoming traffic to turn left.
For the 30,000 passengers who ride the bus on Woodhaven and Cross Bay daily, trips are projected to get 25 to 35 percent faster, according to DOT and the MTA. Prior experience with SBS projects suggests this will be good for local businesses. On Fordham Road in the Bronx, bus ridership increased 10 percent and retail sales shot up 71 percent after the implementation of SBS.
In opposing the Woodhaven project, Addabbo is bucking the political consensus on the City Council. Earlier this year, seven council members called on DOT and the MTA to consider “full-featured BRT” on Woodhaven and Cross Bay. Among the signatories was Eric Ulrich, who holds the council seat that Addabbo vacated.
DOT and the MTA have been hosting workshops about the project since last year and will be launching a fresh round of public meetings this fall. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2017.
Here’s the full message from Addabbo’s office telling his constituents to oppose the project: